“Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, ‘Why are you playing these games with Me? Why are you trying to trap Me?” — Matthew 22:18 (MSG)
“Iron Mike” Keenan, Phil Jackson, Ken Hitchcock, Bill Parcells, Pat Riley and John Tortorella are just a few coaches famous for their success and for playing “mind games.” Saying something or doing something with the intent of “getting in someone’s head” can be a strategy for a coach. Coaches may use it to get a better effort level from one of their players, or to distract an opponent and get them off their game.
Sometimes it is what is said, sometimes it is what is not said. Either way the goal is to get a team or individual to dwell on the outrageous thing just done or said. If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, the coach can just shrug it off and look for another way to “get in their head.”
In 2012, CBS New York ran a story entitled “Rangers’ Tortorella is the Master of Mind Games.” Tortorella is complimented for his ability to redirect the focus of an event. The writer points out how well Torts is able to 1) Make people in power more aware of a situation, 2) Cover up the poor performance of his team, and 3) Cultivate an “us versus the world” mentality inside his team’s locker room. Torts is a Stanley Cup champion, an NHL Coach of the Year winner, and the second most successful U.S.-born coach in NHL history.
“He said, ‘Why are you playing these games with Me?’” That’s how we read the words of Jesus in Matthew 22:18 of The Message Bible. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day didn’t like Him; they saw Him as their opponent. Matthew 22:15-40 records how these religious leaders were trying to “trap” Jesus. First was the question about whether or not Jews should pay taxes to Rome, second was the question of life after death, and third was which of God’s laws is the most important. The goal of all of these questions were to try and get in Jesus’ head and get a response out of Him that would be detrimental for Him. Problem was, they didn’t know their opponent well enough, so they failed.
Ask yourself, “Am I playing games with God?” The game of disbelief? Do you know who God is and respect Him accordingly? The Pharisees didn’t, so Jesus showed them that there are worldly demands and demands of God, and that both need to be met. Next, Jesus taught the Sadducees that when you don’t know the Scriptures well enough, you play a game of “who’s in control?” God is all powerful and He’s alive and active. Thirdly, in this account from Matthew, the leaders are asking which law is the most important to keep; or in essence, they ask what is the best way to earn your way into Heaven. So Jesus taught them it’s not what you do, it’s how or why you do it. God is love, and if you love God, then do what you do in love.
Don’t play mind games with the Master. Play the game of life by following the mind of the Master.
— Brian D. Miller, Peterborough Petes hockey club head trainer
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